Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Dried Cranberries

When you are having Christmas Day dinner at your godmother’s, and she asks you to bring “a vegetable for 16”, you kind of freak out. At least I do. I decided on roasted Brussels sprouts because it’s a vegetable I’ve learned to enjoy as an adult. I added a some lucious fatty/salty bacon and a bit of sweet to make it a festive dish.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Dried Cranberries
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. Brussels Sprouts, stems trimmed and halved
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 lb. thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4″ strips
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 2 rimmed baking pans with parchment paper.
  2. Toss sprouts with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Divide between the 2 baking pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating and swapping the position of the pans halfway through cooking.
  3. While the sprouts cook add the bacon and 1 cup of water to a non-stick skillet. Heat over medium heat until simmering. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid/fat and crisp up the bacon to your desired doneness.
  4. The sprouts are ready when they can be easily pierced with a fork. Toss the sprouts, bacon and cranberries together. Transfer to a warmed serving dish and serve.

Notes:
This reheats well, either in a low oven or in the microwave.

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Savory Cranberry Sauce

I have a strong affinity for can-shapped cranberry sauce. The log of congealed super-sweetened cranberry juice, laid out on a plate, the ridges from the can intact, is a memory from my childhood that holds a special place for me. As I’ve grown older though I’ve learned that there can be more flavor in something made fresh, even if you use a frozen ingredient.

Savory Cranberry Sauce
Servings: about 3 cups of sauce
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups roughly chopped red onion (about 1 1/2 onions)
  • 1 lb. cranberries (fresh or frozen, either is fine)
  • 1/2 cup honey.
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:

  1. Add olive oil to a large sauce pan and place over medium-low heat. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt. Stir to coat the onions with the oil. Cook for about 10minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened. Lower heat if the onions start to brown.
  2. Add the cranberries, honey and lemon zest. Stir until everything is combined, raise the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Cook for ~20 minutes, again stirring occasionally. As the cranberries cook they will burst, releasing pectin into the sauce, which will help it thicken..
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Taste and add salt and/or pepper to your liking. As it cools the sauce will thicken. Serve warm or chilled; either works.

Notes:
You can use still frozen cranberries in this dish though it will likely take 5-10 minutes longer.

This will keep for about a week in the refrigerator.

Watercress and Endive Salad with Pistachios and Dried Cranberries

[Watercress and Endive Salad with Pistachios and Dried Cranberries]Our Christmas Eve dinner usually includes a plated courses in place of the family-style dinners we do for Saturday night. While the prep work during the day can be a bit annoying the salad course goes from component pieces to finished product in less than 5 minutes. When the plating starts folks know we’re about to get serious with the eating and find their places around the table.

This year used a recipe from The Way We Cook by Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven as a starting point. I’ve tweaked the ingredient list a bit and written up the instructions in my own words. Enjoy.

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Cranberry-Mango Chutney

This chutney can play multiple roles in the kitchen. For our Christmas week festivities it will act as “surprise” companion to creme brulee and a topping for a brick of cream cheese. It could replace the canned cranberry sauce with roast turkey (though there is a special place in my heart for can-shapped cranberry sauce) or cut the delicious fattiness of slow roasted pork shoulder.

This recipe is adapted from one Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates. I adjusted the amounts and wrote it up in my own words. Enjoy.

Cranberry-Mango Chutney
Servings:  about 1 quart
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 35-40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (2-3″ each)
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamon
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 3 large mangoes, peeled and diced into cubes

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring periodically, for 5 minutes or until the onions start to become translucent.
  2. Reduce the heat to low. Add the cinnamon, grated ginger, cardamon and salt; stir to combine. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Add the cranberries, brown sugar, water and vinegar. Stir until the brown sugar dissolves. Cover and bring to a simmer, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the cover and cook for 5-10 minutes. The chutney will look more like soup than chutney at this point. The cranberries will pop, soften and thicken the chutney.
  5. Add the mango and simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove from the heat and taste for sweet/salty balance.
  6. Allow to cool for 1 hour then transfer to a storage container. Will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

Notes:
Frozen fruit (both cranberries and mangoes) should work fine in this recipe.  Frozen mangoes will probably disappear into the chutney more than fresh ones.

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Butternut Squash, Dried Cranberries and Toasted Walnuts

I first encountered Israeli couscous at a local Whole Foods in the prepared food gallery. In fact that same discovery was the inspiration for this dish. In the prepared foods case was a large bowl with a colorful array on orange, red, brown and green against a canvas of the white couscous.

This makes a great buffet item as it is tasty warm, cool or room temperature. It lends itself to infinite variations as well. Here is one of my favorites.

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Butternut Squash, Dried Cranberries and Toasted Walnuts
Servings: 10-12
Prep time: 25 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 2-pound butternut squash, peeled and seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 x 8.8 oz. packages of Israeli couscous
  • 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
  • 1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 475°F. Line a half-sheet pan with a Silpat or sheet of parchment.
  2. In a bowl toss squash with 2 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tsp. salt and black pepper. and spread in 1 layer. Spread on sheet pan into a single layer. Roast in upper third of oven 20 minutes, or until squash is just tender. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. While the squash cooks heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and cook until tender. Golden brown is OK here. Add to the bowl with the squash.
  4. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon kosher salt, return to a boil and add the couscous along with the cinnamon sticks. Cook for ~10 minutes, until the couscous is tender. Drain, shake to remove excess water and add to the bowl with the squash. Remove the cinnamon sticks and discard them.
  5. Add lemon peel and juice, parsley, walnuts, dried cranberries to the bowl along with the last tablespoon of olive oil. Toss well to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Notes:
Most of the prep time here is in peeling and cubing the squash. I prefer to peel the squash with a chef’s knife. A sturdy U-shaped vegetable peeler will also work.

While there are several components to this dish, much of the cooking can be done at the same time. For example, the squash can roast while the onion cooks and pasta boils.

You can make this dish in advance, store it overnight and serve cold, room temperature or reheated in the microwave.

Butternut Squash with Baby Spinach and Cranberries

This was a hit at our recent holiday party. While I meant it as a hot/warm side a number of our guests called it a salad and I’m OK with that. It was quite colorful as well; a really nice addition to the buffet table.

In the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, this recipe is based on one from the grocery chain Wegmans.

Butternut Squash with Baby Spinach and Cranberries
Servings: 8-10 as a side; 15-20 as part of a buffet
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 75 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs. butternut squash (this was 3 squashes for me)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. cracked black pepper
  • 6 oz. baby spinach
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Cover a half sheet pan (or two rimmed cookie sheet pans) with aluminum foil.
  2. While the oven preheats prep the squash. Cut off the top and bottom. Cut each squash in half across the middle and then in half vertically so you have 4 pieces. Peel the skin with a serrated peeler. Scoop out the seeds and strands from the center. Finally cut the into 1/2″ cubes.
  3. Toss squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on squash onto the baking pan(s) into a single layer. Ideally you want a bit of space between your squash so that it has a bit of free space. Free space should promote browning. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until easily pierced with a fork.
  4. While the squash cooks rinse and dry the spinach. Place the spinach and dried cranberries in a heat-safe bowl large enough to also hold the squash.
  5. When the squash is ready add it to the bowl with the squash and cranberries. Toss thoroughly and serve.

Notes:
Instead of peeling, cleaning and chopping the squash yourself you can do as the original recipe suggests and purchase already prepped squash. My experience is that the squash is sometimes a bit dried out and will certainly need to be cut into uniform pieces. If you want to save a bit of time, in exchange for a bit of money, already prepped squash is the way to go.

The original recipe called for chopped onion. I left it out of this recipe because one of our expected guests is allergic to onions and peppers. I’ll probably make it with onions at some point though because I think it would add an extra dimension to this dish. I’d go with 2 red onions, peeled, halved and sliced thinly into half moons.

This dish held up remarkably well. It was ready 45 minutes before our guests arrived. I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside. When I was laying out the buffet I microwaved it for about a minute just to reheat it a bit and gave it an extra toss for good measure.